Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

GovLab Austria has a three-fold organizational structures, consisting of three bodies: the executive office, the leading board and the sounding board. The executive office is responsible for operational tasks, as, for example, organizing events and training programs. The leading board, that consist of representatives from the BMÖDS and the Danube university Krems, is responsible for determining the goals and strategies to achieve these goals. Furthermore, they decide which projects are pursued and the distribution of financial resources. The sounding board is a network, that consists of experts coming from the public and private sector, as well as from non-profit organizations. They consult the leading board and the executive office on the planned activities. As the GovLab Austria is located at the federal level, their activities and goals are not targeted directly to services that are used by citizens. Rather, they strategically seek to facilitate the innovation activities of the whole federal administration. Therefore, the primary beneficiaries are public servants working at the different levels of government.

Co-creation process

In GovLab Austria, co-creation mostly happens through the inclusion of stakeholders in the idea generation processes and has a facilitating function as they want to enable other agencies to engage in co-creation. Therefore, the activities of GovLab Austria are characterized by a certain degree of openness. They invite a broad range of different stakeholders and interested public servants to their workshops and events. In those workshops and events, two kinds of co-creation activities are carried out: experimentation and collaborative discussion of ideas. Also, activities such as experimentation and prototyping are carried out, but not in a large scale. Instead, the respondents described a variety of prototyping methods they want to try out in the future in different projects initiated by GovLab Austria. The planning of projects and setting of goals was done in a deliberative fashion, where discussions are the main way how the collaboration was carried out. The climate that surrounded those discussions was described as constructive, where the single participants treated each other as equal partners even though they were coming from different organizational hierarchies. Furthermore, the general strategic direction of GovLab Austria is also determined through deliberation, as the members of the leading board and the sounding board meet twice a year to discuss the strategies and goals. The predominant focus on discussion as method of co-creation might result from the fact, that GovLab Austria is at a planning stage, that is characterized by experimentation and brainstorming. From the data collected, we were not able to determine how GovLab Austria wants to scale up those procedures and change to a more routinized course of action.

Digital Transformation Process

The goal of GovLab Austria is to facilitate innovation within the federal administration in general. This means, that the activities of GovLab Austria do not automatically serve the digital transformation of the Austrian government. However, digital transformation can still be possible through the activities of GovLab Austria as some of the projects they carry out aim at digitizing individual processes. Therefore, it is possible that there are spill over effects and the facilitation of innovation might lead also to a more digitized administration.

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

As GovLab Austria’s primary goal is to facilitate innovation within the federal administration of Austria, the outcomes created by GovLab Austria are targeting the federal administration itself. Furthermore, as GovLab Austria is, at the time of data collection, still at the planning stage rather than executing their projects, the outcomes that can be assessed through their activities are limited. However, the possibility for public servants to meet with other stakeholders, that have knowledge on innovation and public sector transformation generate value for the federal administration. Those values are a reduction organizational silos, enhanced intrinsic motivation of public servants, the creation of networks and access to information. For example, through participating in workshops, conducted by GovLab Austria, organizational silos are reduced, as public administrators have the chance to meet like-minded people from the federal administration, that they would not have met in their regular daily business. Those meetings facilitate the creation of networks and allow the public servants to share knowledge and information with others. In addition, the intrinsic motivation of public servants is increased, as they meet with people, that share the same attitude. This results in mutual inspiration and empowerment. Therefore, the founding of GovLab Austria results in benefits for the individual participants as well as the whole organization.

Challenges & Bottlenecks

There are several challenges that the participants as well as the employees of GovLab Austria are confronted with: limited financial resources, lack of support from top-level government officials and the organizational culture, as well as the mindset of public servants. The limited financial resources challenge co-creation in two ways: first, they inhibit the collaboration between the members of the sounding board and leading board, as, for example, GovLab Austria is not able to compensate the travel costs of the sounding board members. Second, they do not allow for extensive experimentation as testing solutions comprehensively can be costly. The lack of top-level support leads to a reduction of legitimacy and leverage, that GovLab Austria needs to influence the processes of other federal agencies in a long term. The lack of top-level support is illustrated best with the organizational re-location that happened one year after GovLab Austria was founded, when the new government decided to re-locate GovLab Austria from the chancellor’s office to the BMÖDS. This re-location decreased the influence of GovLab Austria, as the chancellor’s office has greater organizational power than the BMÖDS. The organizational culture within the federal agency is another barrier to co-creation. This is evident in several ways. For example, there are only a few incentives for public administrators to be innovative and try out new processes or methods. Instead, public servants that initiate change receive negative feedback. This inhibits GovLab Austria to implement their ideas in the long run. On the individual level, the organizational culture is reflected in a rather risk-averse mindset of individual public servants. Furthermore, a lot of public servants working within the federal agency have legal training and lack the operational knowledge to initiate organizational change.

Transferability & Replicability

As GovLab Austria is, at the time the data was collected, at a planning stage, where the goals had to be determined and a general strategy was developed, there is little data, that tackles how the results created by GovLab Austria can be transferred to other contexts or replicated by other agencies or administrations. However, from the discussion of challenges, it is seen that GovLab Austria needs, besides skilled employees, an organizational context, that allows for freedom in decision-making and flexibility. Furthermore, they need organizational leverage to be able to upscale their results beyond their own agency.

Success Factors

Despite the challenges, the participants, employees and stakeholders of GovLab Austria face, there are also two factors, that make the early stage planning process of GovLab Austria successful. The first factor is that the participants of GovLab Austria are open-minded and motivated to participate and provide their knowledge and information to the discussions that constitute the co-creation processes of GovLab Austria. Here, an open mind is especially important, as it enables the participants to listen and accept other opinions. A second factor is the extensive collaboration between private and third sector organizations as well as the federal administration itself, that is integral in the organizational set-up of GovLab Austria. For example, the sounding board members come from the third sector as well as private sector corporations. The sounding board members evaluate and improve the projects GovLab Austria pursues.

Lessons learned

The case of GovLab Austria shows, that the absence of top-level support might have negative consequences for the progress and activities of a living lab. As the living lab was relocated within the federal administration it lost legitimacy and political leverage. As the goals of GovLab Austria are to facilitate innovation processes within the administration this relocation might inhibit the upscaling of the projects developed by GovLab Austria. However, at the time of data collection, GovLab Austria was still at a planning stage so it is too early to evaluate the impacts on the whole organization. The organizational set-up with a diverse set of actors that evaluate the projects and activities of GovLab Austria is a promising way to incorporate external knowledge and experiences. This diversity ensures, that the decision-making stays open and the collaboration remains constructive.